When offered leadership opportunities, those who have been victims of abusive bosses are more likely to treat their own employees better by learning what not to do, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
The findings show that workers who relied on their morals and integrity to handle their manager’s abusive approach would later become motivated to put a stop to this type of mistreatment once they were promoted to a leadership position.
“Some employees who are abused by their bosses resolve not to repeat that pattern with their own subordinates and become exceptional leaders of their teams,” said researcher Dr. Shannon Taylor, a college of business professor from the University of Central Florida (UCF).
“Our study sheds light on a silver lining of sorts for people who are subjected to abuse at work. Some managers who experience this abuse can reframe their experience so it doesn’t reflect their behavior and actually makes them better leaders.”
Taylor conducted the study with UCF college of business professor Dr. Robert Folger in collaboration with researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso, Suffolk University and Singapore Management University.
Through multiple experiments over several years, the research team looked at the differences in attitude and behavior of supervisors who had been abused by superiors and those who had not and, in turn, how each group treated their employees.
The findings reveal that abused supervisors who purposefully distanced themselves from their manager expressed respect and kindness toward their own employees, despite the poor treatment they received from their own boss.
“The lesson here isn’t to hire more abusive managers, of course, but to try to encourage people who have been abused, among other things, to say, ‘Look, I’m not like my boss,'” Taylor said. “You can take a stand, not just by reporting the bad behavior, but by actively rejecting this abusive leadership style.”
Taylor said he doesn’t expect workplace abuse to disappear completely, but he says that many companies are learning and trying to solve the problem through training and maintaining positive workplace climates.
Source: University of Central Florida